Asheville, North Carolina is known as Beer City USA for having the most breweries per capita. Big name breweries like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium have recently added operations on the East Coast with Oskar Blues making plans to do the same. The best places to drink in Asheville are at the tasting rooms of the dozen breweries as well as the many brewpubs and bars. I obviously love beer, so when I went to visit my sister in Asheville, I knew I had to check some of these places out.
Highlands Brewing Company is named for the Scots who settled the area in North Carolina, but the brews are All American. They are one of the only breweries in the area that bottles and distributes throughout the Southeast. You can visit their tasting room on weekends from 4-8 and it’s one of the only places you can sample their seasonals, like the Razor Wit Belgian Wheat and the dangerous Thunderstruck Coffee Porter. The Tasting Room also hosts live bands on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Tours run from Monday to Saturday at 4 pm. They last 45 minutes to an hour and closed toed shoes are required. The tours are free, but donations to the Manna Food Bank are appreciated. Visitors who are of drinking age get to sample the 5 year round brews: the Gaelic Ale, Oatmeal Porter, Kashmir IPA, St. Terese’s Pale Ale and the Black Mocha Stout.
- Brew I Recommend: Black Mocha Porter is everything you want from a porter, hints of chocolate but not too heavy.
Named for the national forest outside of Asheville, Pisgah creates organic beers, like their pale ale, IPA, nitro stout and solstice. The brewery is worth visiting mostly for their off-the-wall seasonals, like the bacon stout. The free brewery tours run every Saturday at 2 and 3 pm. Pisgah hosts top national music acts for nights of live bands and food trucks on weekends. If you fall in love with one of the beers, you can buy a growler full to take back home.
- Brew I Recommend: Blueberry Wheat Seasonal isn’t overpoweringly fruity, but has enough notes to get the blueberry flavor. It pairs well with food, especially a burrito from the Lucky Otter.
This brewery was founded by a former intern for Highland who wanted to strike out on his own. Craggie is an experimental brewery, constantly testing out new styles, like the bourbon chipotle porter which is on draft currently. They have live music every weekend and you can drop by to see what they’re up to every Wednesday and Thursday from 4-9 pm or on Fridays from 4-10 pm. Get your growler filled while you’re there because at the moment you can only find Craggie in North Carolina and parts of Tennessee.
- Brew I Recommend: Yo La Mango IPA has the bite of an IPA but is softened with the taste of mango.
Located in the up and coming River Arts District, Wedge is the ideal place for an afternoon pint. They have movies once a month and food trucks daily. You can sample their beers from 4-10 pm Monday to Thursday, 3-10 pm on Friday and 2-10 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
- Brew I Recommend: Golem Belgian Strong Golden Ale is best sipped, not downed. It’s juicy but no fruits were added.
Named for the French Broad River, this brewery has five staple beers that it produces year-round. Open 1-8 pm Monday through Saturday, the brewery has different events during the week. Like most of the other breweries in town, beer and live music go hand in hand at French Broad every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. Pints in the tasting room are a dollar off from the regular price of $3.50 on Mondays. Growler refills are $5-6 on Wednesdays. You can find French Broad on tap in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.
- Brew I Recommend: Wee Heavy-er Scotch Ale is on the darker side, with a smooth malty finish.
It started as a brewpub but Green Man has now become its own entity. They have four regular offerings, one from each side of the spectrum: IPA, ESB, Pale Ale and Porter. Seasonal offerings vary, but include an Octoberfest and a double IPA. The Green Man tasting room is open daily, from 4-9 pm during the week and 3-10 pm on weekends. It’s a great place for a pint before an Asheville Tourists baseball game or a concert at the Orange Peel.
- Brew I Recommend: Green Man ESB is made in the English style, blended with British grown malts and American hops.
Nestled under a vegetarian restaurant is the original home of Green Man Brewing. This Celtic style pub has hosted acts like Flogging Molly and Old Crow Medicine Show over the years. The style of music varies by night, with Sunday nights hosting Irish music, mountain music on Wednesdays, bluegrass on Thursdays and comedy acts throughout the month. The food isn’t your run of the mill bar food, although the staples like burgers and fish and chips are all there. All of Green Man’s selections are on tap, as well as other local brews.
Right under my hostel was Lexington Avenue Brewery, one of the most popular spots in Asheville. The open air patio is constantly packed with people craving the in house beers and elevated bar food. Bring friends because the portions are massive. Live music goes late into the night from Tuesday to Sunday, so it’s not a place for deep conversations. LAB has their six signature beers on tap: American Pale Ale, Chocolate Stout, Marzenbier, Bohemian Pilsner, LAB IPA and Belgian White Ale.
- Brew I Recommend: Bohemian Pilsner has the color of a wheat ale with Bohemian barley and German hops.
Where else other than Asheville can you find a combination brewery, restaurant, pizzeria, and movie theater? Asheville Brewing Company has kegs all over town. I sampled one of their beers at Jack of the Wood. They have their hands in nearly every style of beer, with the Shiva IPA, Houdini Extra Special Pale Ale and the Scout Stout, just to name a few. They have two locations, open throughout the week.
- Brew I Recommend: Rocket Girl Lager is light with fruity notes, which was the perfect refreshment to escape the Asheville sun. It’s the only lager that ABC makes.
Attached to The Lobster Trap is the Oyster House Brewing Company, known for the unusual oyster stout. Oysters in beer? If that doesn’t sound good to you, they have more traditional styles, like the IPA, blonde, brown and pale ales.
- Brew I Recommend: Moonstone Oyster Stout is worth a shot because where else in the world will you find one?
The Monk started as a bar for lovers of Trappist and Belgian ales but has now expanded into a second location and has begun brewing their own beers. Each night at the Thirsty Monk celebrates a craft brewery and they hold weekly pub quizzes. Visit their South Asheville location for their homemade brews, specifically the chocolate rye and wheatwine. And if you prefer to eat your beer, the menu has food cooked with beer, like the Fat Tire cheese dip or chorizo sausage tacos with a Pisgah pale ale black bean spread.
Regularly named one of the best beer stores in the country, Bruisin Ales stocks 1000 beers from all over the world, as well as some of Asheville’s finest. They hold tastings every Thursday.
Driving to all these breweries and bars can get tricky, especially the windy roads mixed with tipsy beer lovers. Asheville Brews Cruise solves this problem by piling you all onto a bus and taking you from place to place.
View Asheville Breweries in a larger map
Check out Explore Asheville’s Beertopia page for more information.